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ProTech Sales Deploys Valve-Tracking System for Anadarko Petroleum Corp.

The company is using Xerafy RFID tags to identify valves, and to record when they are inspected or serviced at Anadarko's oil fields in Colorado and Wyoming.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 14, 2012When Littleton, Co., valve distributor and service firm ProTech Sales began its contract 18 months ago with Anadarko Petroleum Corp., to provide maintenance and inspection services for its more than 5,000 valves, the company received a list of each valve's identification, along with its records in the form of a stack of papers, written in pen. The handwritten papers would need to be manually entered into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, and inspectors would later, on paper, need to track everything that they did involving each valve.

The business has historically run this way, says Carol Arnim, ProTech Sales' project manager. For this large contract, covering two sites spanning a combined total of more than 1,000 square miles, ProTech opted to create an automated solution comprising passive EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags and handheld readers, as well as software provided on a cloud-based server to interpret read data, and to make that information available to both ProTech and Anadarko. Since that system's launch in September 2011, the company now offers the RFID-enabled inspection service to other customers, and is applying RFID tags to all valves that it rents to petrochemical companies.

Carol Arnim, ProTech Sales' project manager, using a handheld reader to interrogate the RFID tag attached to the valve behind her.
Valves on pipes that carry petroleum or chemicals must be inspected annually, and be properly maintained to ensure they function correctly. A valve failure can cause significant problems for a petrochemical company, since it may require shutting down operations until that valve can be replaced. In addition, government agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Transportation, require that businesses provide a record of regular inspections for any valves located on public land that they oversee.

Using the manual paper-and-pen method, inspectors walk or drive to each valve, complete an inspection and any necessary maintenance work, and write notes beside that valve's serial number. Those notes are then taken to the office to be entered into a spreadsheet. However, the company reports, notes can be incomplete, difficult to decipher or hard to locate when required in the future. What's more, the valves themselves can be difficult to find; inspectors use the notes and a map to determine a particular valve's location.

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